SPARK Philanthropy

SPARK Philanthropy

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Wanting to find her own spark while helping others, a local woman launched this amazing initiative. Read on for more.

Karen Harshaw isn’t new to the fundraising industry. In fact, when she launched SPARK Philanthropy in 2018, she had already been in fundraising for more than 20 years. 

“Stepping out on my own had been something I wanted to do for a number of years, more than anything; to be independent and successful,” she says. “I wanted to help nonprofits that were struggling; how to shift and turn things around and make a greater impact at their entire philanthropic landscape.”

But this new start wasn’t easy for Harshaw. 

“I was afraid,” she says. “I had an admiration for other professional consultants that I didn’t have for myself. I didn’t believe I was on their level.”

With a nudge from her husband, Harshaw became the first black fundraising consultant in the city. “I knew it would be something bold, new, and scary all at the same time,” she says. “I didn’t think I would be accepted or given the opportunities or benefit of the doubt that other consultants would. But I had to stop making excuse after excuse. I was connected. People did know me, and I had a proven track record. And, I was good!”

That’s when she found her own spark and decided to take one giant leap for womankind. 

Today Harshaw is the founder of SPARK Philanthropy, a consulting firm dedicated to helping nonprofits deliver high-quality, mission-driven fundraising strategies and training.

“Our goal is to develop the resources, skills, and know-how to build a more effective organization, successful donor relationships, and maximize revenue” she says. “It’s our mission to transform leaders and board members into fundraising powerhouses equipped with the resources they need to be effective and have greater mission impact.” 

SPARK Philanthropy also works with organization leaders to teach them how to be more effective and create and build a culture of fundraising.

Harshaw says that SPARK Philanthropy helps to turn ideas into reality by focusing on four key areas to meet an organization’s growth goals:

  1. Fundraising Strategies (annual campaigns, capital campaigns, major gift development, donor cultivation and stewardship, grant writing, and special events)

  2.  Strategic Planning (conduct feasibility studies, design and develop fund development and communication plans, and action plans)

  3. Capacity Building (conduct needs assessments, assess nonprofit effectiveness, and organizational growth)

  4. Board Development and Governance (board recruitment, board facilitation, trainings and retreats, and succession planning.)

In addition to these areas, SPARK Philanthropy also provides leadership coaching to motivate and inspire new leaders and existing leaders within organizations around Cincinnati. 

When Harshaw works with an organization, she says that she focuses on the entire philanthropic landscape, including philanthropic culture. “We want to make sure, internally, that their foundation is strong so that they can thrive for years to come,” she adds.

Harshaw says that while the goal for 2021 was to expand her services beyond Ohio, that goal was met a little early. 

“We have accomplished that goal during the pandemic,” she says. “We had an incredible number of nonprofit leaders reach out at the beginning of the pandemic asking for our support; desperate to keep their nonprofits afloat and teams intact. We took everyone on. It has been amazing getting to know so many different organizations doing amazing, impactful work in the community. They are making a difference.” 

Harshaw says that SPARK Philanthropy is also now in North Carolina, Florida, and Las Vegas.

To learn more, visit or like them on Facebook<>.